The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarotti
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The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarotti
The period of the Renaissance, which lasted from the 14th to 17th century, is the time when man came back from the devastation he was put through during the Middle Ages, and regained almost all of the abilities that were achieved by him during the Greek and Roman time periods, specifically artistic. The Renaissance is also when most of the famous religious art was produced. The Renaissance is determined to have been born in Florence, Italy, just like one of the most famous renaissance sculptors and artists ever known- Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarotti Simoni. Michelangelo is believed to born the 6th of March 1475, and is known to have died the18th of February 1564. During his long lifetime of 64 years, he produced a vast number of artistic and architectural masterpieces, such as the Pieta, the sculpture of David, the dome of St. Peters Basilica in Vatican. Among all of these amazing works, one that was probably defined Michelangelo in a new sense, as a painter, was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The chapel was built due to a commission made by Pope Sixtus, after whom the chapel was later named. The one who summoned Michelangelo for this specific job, was Julius II. Even though the four years of painting the chapel were torturous and full of struggle for Michelangelo, during that time he produced images, that are now considered legendary.
«The Creation of Adam», one of the nine scenes from the book of genesis, Is placed right in the center of the chapel, emphasizing the importance of this particular stage. As a person walks into the Sistine chapel, his or her eyes are primarily attracted right to the center, where the scenes about Adam and Eve, including the «Creation of Adam» are portrayed. Even though the ultimate central piece is «God creates Eve», the true emphasis is drawn to the masterpiece, «Creation of Adam». This is effect is achieved due not only to the beautiful quality of the work, but also due to the larger scale of this work over the «Creation of Eve» and «Adam and Eve tempted and outlawed out of Eden». Appreciating all the fabulous painting, it is important to notice that Michelangelo didn’t intend to be a painter at all. His primary qualification was sculpting, so it can be said, that he was «forced» into painting. Even though Michelangelos' performance in the Sistine Chapel is superlative, while creating the images on the ceiling, he was experiencing great difficulties: he was learning how to handle a new media-plaster and pigment, or the art of fresco. The Fresco is a very difficult manner to work in; as the work has to be completed on wet plaster, and done before it dries. It is known, that Buonarotti had such difficulties with this technique that once he had to chip off twenty days worth of work. When first looking at the magnificent «Creation of Adam», the sensation that strikes me the most is the realism of the bodies of Adam, a muscular and young man, lying on a hill in a fairly relaxed pose, casually stretching his arm to God, while on the other hand, is not relaxed at all. He is pictured as an elderly bearded man, being carried in a cape with angels, and with great effort, reaching out towards Adam to give him the spark of life. The dimensions of this particular art piece are 280 cm x 570 cm, so all of the human figures are bigger than the real life. Even though Adam appears to be quite inert and lacking action compared to his creator, the beauty of the human body redeems that fact. Once after all, the God had created the man «in his own image». Michelangelo shrewdly weaves in this idea into the work, by making the right leg of Adam a complete replica of the right leg of god, and also curving their bodies in similar ways, in other words Michelangelo was very keen to hiding various symbols in his work.
I n order to achieve these various goals, such as communicating a message, and dazzling the spectators with the marvelous appeal to reality, Michelangelo Buonarotti had to use the basic rules of art: the principles and elements of design. Using the basic principles of design: balance, contrast, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, unity, contrast, harmony, repetition, and combining them with the elements: line, shape, direction, size, texture color and value, an artist can create any kind of work he wants to. The first element that strikes the eye is the composition of this piece. God is pictured in the top right corner, while Adam is in the bottom left. Their linking hand form a diagonal that adds more action to the painting itself, and complements the rather casual poses of the characters. The flaring green ribbon serves a similar function, creating movement and drawing us into the painting, as well as the feet of god and the angels, which are almost touching the right edge of the painting, therefore serving a role of a pathway. The ratio between the negative and the positive space is well balanced: the simplicity of Adams surroundings is evened out by the dynamics created by the angels and the voluminous red cape in the top left corner. Another diagonal that lies within this piece is the green hill which Adam is resting upon. The color of the hill serves a role of unification, as it pairs up with the flaring green scarf and unifies the work by connecting the two sides. Even though God and Adam share a similar position, God is elevated over him. This symbolizes the superiority of the deity over the ordinary man. Another curious thing to notice is the similarity between the red cape filled with angels with a human organ, particularly the brain. This allusion to the human organs explains the choice of the color for the cape and the complex weaving done by the bodies of the angels. Modern scientists have now proved that Michelangelos representation of the brain is anatomically accurate. Each angel under the cape stands for a certain part of the brain. It is fascinating how Michelangelo figured out which part of this complex organ stands for what part of our personality: he placed the sad angel under Gods right arm, at the area which is activated when people are thinking sad thoughts and God in the frontal lobe- the part that is responsible for our personality. If the whole structure with the cape is perceived as the brain, then the feet of the god and angels, along with the scarf now transform into the brainstem and arteries.
Through these various symbols, Michelangelo communicates a multitude messages and ideas. The first and most obvious message being sent to us is the contrast between god and Adam: the lively wisdom and the inert simplicity of Adam. Seeing Gods figure, full of movement, and stretching out to Adam, one perceives his willingness to endow Adam with the spark of life, while on the other hand, Adams relaxed pose shows him as though taking the prodigious gift for granted, not putting much effort into receiving the spark. This gives people awareness of how we underestimate the gift that was given to us by God. The composition also emphasizes the separation of the man from the world of angels. Now about the anatomical interpretation: God is located right in the cape, which represents the brain. This highlights the importance of the brain within a person. Michelangelo was able to understand that the brain is the organ that gives godly spark to each person, serves as a possible key into life. This place of God within this image could also signify that each person has a part of god in themselves, but due to the strict religious boundaries set during the time of Renaissance, this seems unlikely. Even though Adam and God haven’t yet linked their hands, the man is already alive. This is similar the way that neurons are transferred through the nerves in the brain: the ends don’t touch, even though the message is being passed. Through Body language, symbols and emotions Buonarotti managed to open up a great area of interpretation, connecting all of the areas of knowledge.
Even after having analyzed this magnificent piece of artwork, one can’t claim to have obtained entire knowledge about the piece. One can never be certain that all of the messages hidden by Michelangelo were revealed. The only thing that one can be certain of is that this piece is that it is iconic in terms of describing the Renaissance. Michelangelo managed to connect art, anatomy, chemistry, biology and theology all into one united work. It is hard to imagine how Michelangelo obtained such precise information about the functions of the different parts of the brain, and came up with the idea to replace it with the angels. The play of emotions of the characters again fascinates me: the longing expression on Adams face is combined with his gesture seems to be able to strike a chord in any person. It is relevant to say that the style of Buonarotti was greatly influenced by the Greek and Roman artwork, and that the grandeur of Adams torso is an indirect allusion towards the ancient Greek and Roman gods. After having spent so much time with this art piece I know that this piece is one of the most outstanding artworks that have ever been done by a human being, but as Michelangelo once said:" If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all. «
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